Written by Nikki Bowman Mills
I get asked questions about wedding etiquette all the time. When COVID-19 reared its ugly head, every aspect of wedding planning was questioned—and for those of us who are steeped in the business, it was challenging at best. As we geared up for 2021, we prayed that some sense of normalcy would return, but as the Delta variant rages through the country, putting those who can’t or still refuse to get vaccinated at high risk and those of us who are vaccinated in the untenable position of being able to unwittingly spread the virus, we are faced with more concerns about how to handle weddings. The New York Times recently shared the following question from a worried maid of honor. The response by Philip Galanes was thoughtful and on-point, and I thought it was worth sharing, but I also think it could go a step further.
“I am one of two maids of honor at a close friend’s upcoming wedding. Because of Covid-19 public health orders in her state, she has had to postpone the event twice. We’re finally approaching the re-rescheduled date. The couple is hosting an indoor ceremony with 200 guests (no masks or vaccination required) and a tented outdoor reception. My partner and I are traveling from California. We’re vaccinated but uncomfortable spending time indoors with others who are unmasked or potentially unvaccinated—especially when breakthrough infections are making some people very sick. Would it be tacky as a maid of honor to wear a mask throughout the evening? Will people think we’re overcautious?”
The New York Times pointed out that we are in a public health crisis, and it is completely reasonable to have an honest conversation with the bride explaining that, with the rapid growth of Delta variant infections, she should consider moving the wedding outdoors and requiring vaccinations and mask-wearing. The New York Times responded, “Protecting your health (and the health of others) completely dwarfs wedding attire. Instead of worrying about what other people think of your sensible mask, perhaps you can use your close relationship with the bride to help make her wedding safer for everyone. Because 200 people gathered indoors—without masks, social distance, and possibly vaccinations—sounds more like a superspreader event than a joyful occasion.”
As we enter a new wave, wedding couples and their families, friends, and loved ones need to bring a lot of compassion and flexibility with each other to the process of wedding planning. If you aren’t invited to a pared-down wedding, understand that the pressure of trimming guest lists has caused the couple great angst. If you are asked to participate in a wedding either as a guest or member of the wedding party and you don’t feel safe about the gathering as it’s proposed, bring up your concerns in a loving way and stand your ground. If the couple does not make adjustments that you are comfortable with, you’re totally within your rights to let the bride/groom know that you’re happy to serve in their wedding party but, without restrictions in place to protect everyone’s health, you will wear a mask. Alternatively, you’re within your rights to say you’re sorry but you’ll have to decline. And if, as the bride, you get that response from one of your besties, lovingly respect the decision.